As the nation goes so does the NFL….that’s what I have been hearing these last few weeks in the wake of the stories of domestic violence, child & drug abuse. The Ray Rice story seems to be the poster child for the NFL players’ bad behavior so his suspension has triggered a pretty fair question: if you are an employer, can you legitimately fire an employee for domestic violence? Apparently the Washington Post raised this question & brought together a team of experts to get some answers. In a nutshell, the answer is possibly but “look before you leap;” here are some of things you might want to consider:
- Accusation vs. Conviction: If you are going to act, it’s always best to wait for a conviction vs. an accusation; the challenge for many companies is absent a thorough background check, a conviction will be tough to find.
- Does the employee create a risk to the workplace? You have to evaluate the workplace risk because if the employee is a good performer & team player then taking any action might open you up to a wrongful termination suit in the view of attorney Robin E. Shea, author of the Employment & Labor Insider blog, as revealed in the Washington Post article.
- Is the employee a public figure? For example is s/he “the face” for your company or one of its products? If that is the case, then removing that person is an easier thing to do because of the risk to your brand creating its own workplace risk.
- Does the person hold a leadership position? Leadership roles are both substantive & subjective but if a leader doesn’t have good standing in their community [in this case the workplace community], that runs the risk of destroying company culture, morale, as well as providing tacit endorsement of the bad behavior by the company making this person a threat to your business which is a position suggested by an attorney at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
One thing is clear. The NFL has an alarming pattern of choosing talent over character when drafting or trading for new players. Therefore if we want to effect change I believe they are going to have to be hit where it hurts: extreme financial penalties and loss of draft picks. Perhaps when a team is buried in the cellar for a few years losing the revenue & prestige that comes with winning, they will then be sufficiently motivated to change their priorities…well, maybe.
For those of you non-football fans, check out the video below to see what all the furor is about::